Government Agency Reports Increase in Coastal Red Tides During 2004

March 7, 2005

News articles and recently released reports (1, 2) from the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) show that pollution and overfishing led to 96 red tides in 2004, 20 of which were toxic. Red tides are high concentrations of algae in seawater that not only may cause the water to appear reddish in color but also may be toxic. Red tides are detrimental to marine life and the ecosystem and can be harmful to humans. Most of the reported red tides occurred in the East China Sea, where the polluted Yangtze River flows into the ocean, and in the Bohai Bay. The tides have harmed China’s coastal fishing industry, as illustrated in several articles appearing in the China Daily in 2004 (1, 2).

The Chinese government recently announced plans to cooperate with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility to address marine pollution and the preservation of China's coastal areas. The government has also created a red tide monitoring system, according to a September 2004 article in the China Daily. The SOA’s 2004 report says that government authorities are continuing monitoring and warning efforts and will continue to work to prevent products contaminated by toxic red tides from being sold on the open market. Moreover, according to a December 2004 China Daily article, the Fisheries Bureau at the Ministry of Agriculture is implementing controls on fishing to prevent further deterioration of the coastal marine environment.

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has also taken steps to address the problem, according to a May 2004 China Daily article on red tides. Pan Yue, Vice Director of SEPA, stressed the need to reduce pollution in the Yangtze River to prevent red tides. An August 2004 China Daily article discusses SEPA/SOA joint inspection of the causes of the marine pollution. Since that time, SEPA has begun a number of campaigns and implemented new legislation to protect China’s water sources.